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Julia Obermeyer is eager to sing again

February 3, 2022   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

“My paternal grandparents were singers and my dad’s sister is a singer. I remember seeing her singing Messiah when I was eight years old and I said to my mother, ‘I want to do that.’”

This was Julia Obermeyer’s first step to her passion for singing.

She said, “Later I was saying when I was 10, ‘I want voice lessons.’ My mother said okay and I started with Pam Claridge [for] three or four years, enjoying Disney and definitely some classical music,” Ms. Obermeyer told the Citizen. “After a few years, I started wanting a career. By the time I was 13 or 14, I was becoming serious and then, that’s when we found Mark DuBois [internationally known Canadian tenor] in Hockley Valley.”

She auditioned for Mr. DuBois to qualify as a student.

A few days later, as she told the Citizen, “I got the call saying he would ‘love to have you as a student.’ That was the same day that Italy won the World Cup and we got the call – so that was a good day.”

Lessons with Mark DuBois lasted for many years. Even while she was attending York University, Ms. Obermeyer was still going for lessons with him. She went on to Western University in London to earn her Masters of Music but once she graduated from Western and moved back home, they continued the lessons.

It was important to continue with Mark DuBois, Ms. Obermeyer felt, saying, “I’d known him for so long. It was just a really good relationship. He was someone who is very important in my life. There is a definitely a bond with music and he was teaching me technique, doing different warm ups, language pronunciation for singing Opera. When I first started lessons, Mark told my [Italian] mom to start speaking Italian in the house – so the pronunciation was in my ear.”

She enjoyed hearing about his performances, his experiences; how he was helping her grow as a performing artist. Going to his concerts [e.g. at Massey Hall,], she noted that observing him as a performer was also very instructive.

“Mark pushed me past my comfort level,” she related. “He said one time in a warm up – I started singing high notes – ‘you are absolutely going to sing the Queen of the Night [from Mozart’s opera, the Magic Flute, sung in German].

“Let’s do it,” he pressed her “and see what happens.”

She said, “He could see my potential more than what I could see. It’s wonderful for someone to have that faith in you.”

Since 2017, Julia Obermeyer has been teaching piano at Aardvark Music and Culture, moving into the new shop and performance space at 145 Broadway when it was ready. Unfortunately, that happened at the very beginning of the Covid-19 shut-downs and she has been teaching online via Zoom and Face time over the last many months.

The new Aardvark shop is beautiful and teaching on line is not her preference. It can be frustrating with the technical difficulties of connectivity, sometimes bad enough to require re-booking the lesson.

Looking forward in-store lessons, Ms. Obermeyer commented that she really enjoys working at Aardvark, claiming that all the teachers are so personable and owner, Perry Joseph is good to work for.

“It has a kind-of at home feeling – it’s great atmosphere,” was how she put it.

Naturally, she misses her social life. She and her friends have gathered outside in the summer, by one of their homes or on a patio in a restaurant. The virtual connection does in the winter, although, “We have braved the cold with blankets and tea or hot chocolate. I just want this to be done.”

As well as missing being on stage herself, Ms. Obermeyer misses going to performances or the movies. Nothing truly replaces live shows; at Christmas 2019, she and her mother agreed they would go to see Nutcracker the following Christmas “but no –it would have been lovely seeing it with all the costumes and have that evening with my mom.”

For her, part of the wonder of live theatre is “Sitting watching a performance with hundreds of other people each having a different experience – there’s a connection with everyone.”

An important time came when an opera program through Western took Julia Obermeyer to Lucca, a town in Tuscany, Italy. She had auditioned and was offered the role Clorinda in La Cenerentola [one of the “mean stepsisters” in the Italian “Cinderella” opera by Rossini].

“I had a lot of fun with that role,” said she.

The adventure lasted for the entire month of July, 2015.

“Such a feeling of walking to rehearsal, eight in the morning, everybody’s got the day going,” she reminisced. “I can’t explain it – pinch me is this real? We ate so much gelato, thank goodness for those walks to rehearsal! 

“I look back on that month a lot. I had a few friends doing the month as well. We shared a house and we all just clicked. I [travelled there] by myself and I was quite nervous but I was able to do it. There were quite a few people that I knew from University.”

Wonderful memories: “From rehearsal to a performance – to sing – to act. At night we walked around the walled city. The Lucca Music Festival was on; one night it was Elton John. We were outside the venue but still, we could hear him.

“One night we were just going out and had a bottle of wine. I went into a Gelateria to ask for 4 cups – not for ice cream, I told him, but for wine. ‘Certo!’ [of course!] he said. “Work is done – let’s enjoy life right now.

“For lunch the shops closed and people were in the piazza. I was very sad to leave after the performance and very sad after the Opera Gala performing more scenes. It’s a time in my life that I reflect on a lot.”

In answer to a query, “Oh my gosh, I would of course be happy to go back to Europe to sing.”

Like so many artists, M. Obermeyer wants to return to her singing career. She is keeping her voice in shape but admits the weight of Covid can be very heavy while trying to put that aside and continue pushing through.

In her opinion, especially after what’s happened, there is going to be such a hunger for opera. Efforts to deliver on line have been great but there’s nothing like seeing it live.

“I think there’s going to be a real hunger for it,” is her verdict. ”Not just opera but all kinds of live entertainment.”

She offered, “There are always the positives – for me it’s a positive that I’m here with my friends – we’re still meeting and talking and laughing– online – outside at distance and come the summer, we’ll be able to do that more and I’m looking forward to that.”

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